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News and Opinion

It’s Time To Stop Making Israel A Wedge Issue In U.S. Politics


We have just come through perhaps the most expensive, partisan, and divisive election campaign in American history. Increasingly sophisticated polling and persuasion techniques allow candidates, parties, and shadow 527 groups to target their appeals with precision.

In 2006, the divide and conquer strategies were applied in ways that portend long-term harm to Israel and its special relationship with the United States. For the first time, we witnessed a coordinated effort to make support for Israel a wedge issue. In a series of ads in Jewish newspapers around the country, the Republican Jewish Coalition argued that Jews should align themselves with the Republican Party because “the Democratic Party is changing. And the far left, anti-Israel segment is gaining control.”

Democrats and their support groups naturally responded by citing the traditional support of the Democratic Party for Israel and argued on the basis of issues such as abortion rights, stem cell research, and an increase in the minimum wage that Jews would not have to compromise their values in voting for Democrats.

There you have it. Will support for Israel now join gay marriage, faith based initiatives, and the right to bear arms as the newest abyss separating Republicans from Democrats? We hope not.

The Israeli government has worked hard for 58 years to nurture support in both political parties. Such support has been critical at times when one administration or another threatened to take actions harmful to Israel’s long-term interests. Indeed, the strength of the relationship between Israel and the United States is that it is based on shared values and has always transcended political affiliations.

Presidents come and go, majorities shift from blue to red. Eventually and inevitably, the pendulum will swing as voters kick the ruling party out of office. Recognizing this fact, Jewish community leaders should step back from the edge. It is once again time to put support for Israel above partisan party politics.

Husbands and wives can vote for different parties and still live in the same house if they put their devotion to each other above the political fray. It’s time for American Jewish leaders to do the same thing. Perhaps it is time to dismantle both the Republican Jewish Coalition and the National Jewish Democratic Council and to let party operatives know that the Jewish community will speak for itself and not through their partisan rhetoric.

Over the coming weeks and months, people who truly care about Israel, and not just about scoring political points, need to figure out ways to close the gap to make support for Israel neither Democratic nor Republican, but instead, American.

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